10 January 2019

Tanzania: Government Wins Online Content Case

THE High Court in Mtwara Zone has quashed an application lodged by civil society organisations challenging provisions of the Electronic and Postal Communication (Online Content) Regulations of 2018 which the government formulated to create sanity in the industry.

Delivering the ruling here yesterday, Judge W. P Dyansobera, concluded that the petitioners had failed to prove beyond doubts that the regulations will affect their rights in electronic communication.

Petitioners in the case included the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), the Registered Trustees of the Media Council of Tanzania (MCT) and Human Rights Defenders Coalition.

The Judge agreed with arguments fronted by State Attorneys that formulation of the regulations was in line with the legislation of the land.

The defendant was represented by state attorneys Ms Alesia Mbuya, Mr Ladislaus Komanya, Mr Sylvester Mwakitalu, Mr Johanes Kalungura, Mr Killey Mwitasi, Mr Abubakar Mrisha and Ms Neisha Shao.

On the other hand, the complainants were represented by advocates, Fulgence Masawe, James Marenga and Jeremia Mtobyesa.

The first respondent in the case was the Minister for Information, Culture and Sports while the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) and the Attorney General were the second and third respondents, respectively.

In May, last year, the same court dismissed another case by activists calling for review of the Electronic and Postal Communication Act of 2010, along with its Online Content Regulations, 2018.

The Judge who gave the ruling last year maintained that the petitioners had failed to prove beyond doubt on how the regulations would affect their best (practices) rights.

After the ruling, the Director General of Tanzania Information Services (Maelezo) who doubles as Chief Government Spokesperson, Dr Hassan Abbas, told 'Daily News' in an interview that the regulations are meant to officially recognise providers of online content and create sanity in new media.

"Even developing countries have such rules in place ... the government is open to better and closer working relations with stakeholders to enforce the regulations," Dr Abbas said then.

The petitioners were asking the court to review the draft regulations from the minister responsible for information, culture and sports, whom they claimed had acted outside his authority and that the new rules violated principles of natural justice.

The High Court sitting in Mtwara on May 4, last year, issued a temporary injunction, preventing implementation of the regulations, including registration of all online platforms whose deadline was set for May 5, last year.

The petitioners last year included LHRC, MCT, Tanzania Media Women Association, Jamii Media, Tanzania Human Rights Defenders and Tanzania Editors Forum (TEF).

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